The sun is shining; the Dogwoods are blooming; and the flood warnings have finally subsided. Winter hasn’t quite relinquished to spring at higher elevations. Trust us, we miscalculated conditions at the end of April and tried to camp perched atop the Blue Mountains a tad too early. This series, 48 Hours in Walla Walla, is designed to take the planning aspect of outdoor recreation outings off the checklist. Have a free weekend? Not anymore–we’ll let you know where to eat, sleep, and play in and around the Walla Walla Valley. All you have to do is show up.
The month of May is an amazing time to take in the beauty of the valley. Spring crops come alive and turn the front slope of the Blue Mountains the most spectacular shade of green. For locals and visitors alike, the pull to get outside and see the wildflowers bloom, the rivers rage, and wander town without snow boots and parkas is strong. A weekend in Walla Walla can answer those calls. Pack your backpack, you are headed to Walla Walla!
Lodging Options: Getting a Little Shut-Eye
Easily accessible via a few hours in the car from any number of larger metropolitan areas across the Pacific Northwest, leaving after work on Friday leaves plenty of time to enjoy 48 hours in Walla Walla. For the month of May, unless you have the appropriate gear to keep you warm and dry at a campsite, consider treating yourself to a hotel. Despite the fact that we are local, we have landed in a few hotels thanks to home renovation projects and pregnancy–we’ll spare you those details.
For the iconic hotel experience, The Marcus Whitman Hotel greets visitors as they exit the highway and head toward historic downtown. If you are an outdoor enthusiast who happens to be celebrating an anniversary or special occasion, this is the hotel to treat yourself. Located within walking distance to all sorts of local cuisine and shops, you’ll have plenty to do and more than enough to eat when you get back from your hike. Take advantage of The Marc, the hotel’s restaurant, to recharge your calories for tomorrow’s adventure. The Marc was recently voted Restaurant of the Year by the Washington Wine Commission.
Another option not far from town is the Comfort Inn & Suites off of Pine Street not far from downtown Walla Walla. This hotel is just off the highway as well and allows for quick access to all the adventures we have planned for you. This particular hotel is fairly new and really clean. If traveling with a family, the indoor pool is an added bonus. The pool is shallow, so great for young kids, and warm, great for parents. The hot tub will likely assist with early season back-to-hiking shape soreness as well.
Since Walla Walla is already a destination town, there are so many great options. If you have Marriott rewards to burn, use them in Walla Walla. Other more boutique options are available, such as 51 East Main or the Johnson Ridge Inn & Vineyard. Whatever your price point, there are numerous options on VRBO. With three colleges and universities in the area and wine tourism attracting a number of large hotel chains, escaping to Walla Walla has never been easier.
If the thought of keeping your sleeping bag captured in the garage for one more second is too much to handle, Lewis & Clark Trail State Park likely has a spot waiting for you. Open in April and reservable starting mid-May, this park is about half an hour from Walla Walla, between the towns of Waitsburg and Dayton. This is by no means off the beaten path. Many outdoor recreation opportunities are found just outside of Dayton, Washington, so the park is actually quite centrally located. Many sites accommodate RVs, so if you are team campering like we are start de-winterizing now.
Your Outdoor Recreation Itinerary
Prepare for 48 hours of pure Blue Mountain outdoor fun. Showing off the best of spring and taking advantage of clean, crisp air makes for stunning viewscapes. The plan for this month is to hike or bike around the mountains and get to know Walla Walla and surrounding communities via your taste buds. Let’s start with the most important meal of the day.
Saturday @ 8:00 a.m. → Breakfast at Bacon & Eggs
There are few better ways to start the day than breakfast at Bacon & Eggs. Whenever we have friends or family in town, we make a point to take them out to breakfast. Anytime we schedule a meeting that warrants discussion over great food, we haul our laptop and sneak a spot with an outlet. I’m in love with the Texas Eggs. Steve is more adventurous and tours the menu, which never disappoints. Their lattes are generous and scrumptious, and their menu is sourced from many local growers and ranchers, so not only are you supporting a local establishment (and great people) but also those in the area who make such delicious food possible. As an added bonus, gracing the walls this month is art from Todd Telander Fine Art, an insanely talented and renowned artist who specializes in capturing nature’s beauty.
Saturday @ 9:30 a.m. → Ten Ton Coffee & Middle Point Ridge Trail
Depart Walla Walla and enjoy a short drive through farmland and few small towns to the Middle Point Ridge Trail just outside of Dayton, Washington. If you need another cup of coffee, bring your travel mug to Ten Ton Coffee in Waitsburg, Washington. This darling coffee shop offers pastries and lunch items as well. Continue east to Dayton, and follow our directions to the Middle Point Ridge Trail. We chose this trail because it starts relatively low and follows the North Fork Touchet River for approximately a mile before heading up the mountain toward bigger and bigger views.
Hike as many miles as you choose. As noted in our full write-up, the Middle Point Ridge Trail does connect to other trails that continue to ramble throughout the Umatilla National Forest. Depending on the weather and snow-pack, this adventure could continue for many, many miles. Note that mountain biking the Middle Point Ridge Trail is also possible, but we recommend only those with advanced skill attempt it. Bring your binoculars and perhaps a wildflower guidebook to enhance your experience. Spring in the northern Blue Mountains is a magical time of year.
Saturday @ 3:30 p.m. → Lunch at Weinhard Cafe & Bakery in Dayton, Washington
So you’ve sidehilled a couple thousand feet and need a little energy, we have you covered. The Weinhard Cafe & Bakery in Dayton is a local mainstay. We dare you to read the story on their homepage without smiling. Fresh, local ingredients inspire the menu and is just what a day on the trail ordered. Beautiful salads, hearty sandwiches, and if you opted for a few more miles and found yourself needing dinner, you are in for a treat–salmon, ribeye, pastas. The cafe is at the heart of downtown Dayton in a lovely historic building.
Saturday @ 6:30 p.m. → Enjoy Downtown Walla Walla
A hearty breakfast, a drive through rolling farmland enhanced by the morning light, a challenging and rewarding hike into the northern Blue Mountains, a locally sourced late lunch, and now a relaxing stroll through one of the most breathtaking downtowns in all of America. At this point, you can’t go wrong. You’ve made it this far–you might as well do a little wine tasting. There are plenty of opportunities to do so and many offer live music on the weekends. Check out the Visit Walla Walla calendar for events happening while you are in town. One of our favorite after dinner treats is Colville Street Patisserie. Their pastries are out of this world, and their gelato is so creative and delicious. My personal favorite is an oat chai-tea latte, so much so that my family basically gives me gift cards to the Patisserie for birthdays and holidays.
As an option, to take advantage of the much anticipated longer days of spring, consider a trip out to Bennington Lake. There are multiple short trails around the reservoir that offer stunning views of the Blue Mountains at sunset. These trails are open to mountain bikes, so if the Middle Point Ridge Trail was not within your comfort level but you brought your bike, this is a great place to use it. Last month the area was flooded after heavy rains and snowmelt. The trails might not be as well maintained as usual, but they are still passable. The Blue Mountain Land Trust’s Blues Crew has helped with a few areas, so conditions will only improve.
Saturday @ 9:00 p.m. → Nightcap at Quirk Brewing
If you opted for the evening stroll or bike ride at Bennington Lake, then you are not far from Quirk Brewing. Located near the Walla Walla Regional Airport, within two miles from Bennington Lake, Quirk Brewing is open until 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Their varieties are plentiful and tasty. The relaxed atmosphere, complete with an assortment of board games and trivia, and outdoor seating with views of the mountains kissed by moonlight is the perfect place to reflect on the day’s adventures. Most of the time, the Agapas Mexican Cravings Food Truck is there as well. It’s been a busy day, and it’s a good tired–you’ve earned it. Wherever you decided to rest your head, know that the second day of 48 Hours in Walla Walla is just as awesome.
Sunday @ 8:00 a.m. → Options for Breakfast & Coffee
By all means, take advantage of continental breakfast if available. For today’s adventure, we realize you also need to head home or, if local, get ready for the week ahead. But first, coffee. Coffee Perk on First Street between Main Street and Alder Street is a great way to start the day. Their fresh-baked pastries are really yummy, and you need a snack for the trail anyway. Indulge.
Sunday @ 8:30 a.m. → Harris Park & South Fork Walla Walla Trail
Just a short drive south of town, so a different look at the valley, outdoor enthusiasts are in for a treat. If cycling is your thing, then check out the Harris Park Route. This out-and-back climbs out of the valley and into the Blue Mountains. The South Fork Walla Walla River has worked wonders in this canyon, so enjoy walls of exposed basalt as you head into the forest. Check out more details about the South Fork Walla Walla Trail–you’ll have to make a hard decision between hiking or mountain biking. It isn’t quite as harrowing a ride as the Middle Point Ridge Trail, but is still challenging and technical. The trail follows the river and clings to outcroppings leaving areas of significant drop-offs, but boy is the view worth it. Travel a few miles or more depending on your departure plans. We’ve seen massive lady bug emergence in the spring, lots of butterflies, and, of course, wildflowers. There are spots to simply sit by the river and enjoy the sounds of nature, and yet the trail can offer challenges that require intense physical exertion. That is one of the main reasons we love this trail so much–usable by all.
Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. → Lunch at Graze
It is time to depart and head back to reality. We hope you are leaving with great memories, dirt on your boots, and plenty of selfies with the Blue Mountains gracing the background. Before we say goodbye, we have one more treat for you–a sandwich from Graze. There are two locations–one downtown that is eat-in and one on Ninth Street that is drive-through. The turkey avocado is my personal favorite, and Steve loves the pulled pork torta. They have such a fresh, creative menu sure to impress any palate. This stop will literally leave a good taste in your mouth about our little town.
Sunday @ 2:45 p.m. → BONUS HIKE at Twin Sisters
If home is west of Walla Walla, then consider one last stop at Twin Sisters near Wallula Gap. Just a few miles past the exit toward Tri-Cities, Yakima, Spokane, or Seattle or on the way to the Portland, the view is well worth the detour. This quick hike jogs up the canyon and the view of the Columbia River from just a few hundred feet above the road is absolutely stunning. Not a bad place to pause for one last round of reflection.
Thank you for visiting the Walla Walla Valley and Blue Mountains. We assure you that this is just one of countless ways to spend a weekend outside Walla Walla. Come back anytime–we look forward to seeing everyone near and far on the trail. Please enjoy exploring the website, there are so many activities to add and adventures to write about. Visit often to check out our growing catalog of outdoor recreation opportunities.